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BOOKSMART: 4 ½ STARS. “an overachiever that knows how to have a good time.”

Four hundred years ago when Shakespeare wrote, “To thine own self be true,” he could not have imagined that his words would provide the bedrock of a raucous teen comedy and yet here we are. “Booksmart,” Olivia Wilde’s feature directorial debut, is both high and low brow, touching and sentimental in its look at female friendship.

Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) are best friends. Inseparable, they are class president and vice-president, Michelle Obama acolytes who listen to self-empowerment tapes. “You’ve worked harder than anyone and that’s why you are a champion. Stand at the top of the mountain of your success and look down on everyone who has ever doubted you.” Molly is a perfectionist who corrects the grammar on bathroom wall graffiti while Amy is off to Botswana to “help women make tampons.”

On the eve of their high school graduation, they have Yale and Columbia in their sights but when Molly realizes her slacker schoolmates are also going to Ivy League schools she isn’t happy. “We chose to study so we could get into good schools,” she says. “They didn’t choose.” After semesters of prioritizing academics over socializing they attempt to cram four years of fun into one night. “Nobody knows we are fun,” Molly says. “We are smart and fun. What took them four years were doing in one night.”

There’s only one big problem; they don’t have the address of the hip graduation party and no one is answering their texts. “We have never hung out with any of these people except academically,” Amy says. “They probably think we’re calling about school.” After some misadventures on a tricked-out yacht and at a murder mystery party they use their academic skills. “How will we find out where next party is? By doing what we do best, homework.”

“We are 8A+ people and we need an A+ party.”

The plot synopsis of “Booksmart” sounds like it could have been lifted from any number of other high school comedies but director Wilde simply uses the of high school graduation party set-up as a backdrop for her hilarious study of female bonding. The premise may be familiar but the charm of the movie is all in execution and the connected chemistry between the leads.

In her feature debut Wilde is so self-assured, staging big party scenes, a dance number and even car chases but never allows the focus to drift from Molly and Amy. Even when the supporting cast—the cosmically free-spirited Gigi (Billie Lourd), rich kid Jared (Skyler Gisondo), the much-talked-about AAA (Molly Gordon) or the very theatrical drama club members Alan and George (Austin Crute and Noah Galvin)—gets showcased in increasingly outrageous ways Wilde never lets their humanity trump the humour. In other words, it’s funny because it’s based in truth; real human behavior.

Feldstein and Dever are the film’s beating heart. Both have crushes on other people—Molly likes party boy Nick (Mason Gooding), Amy has her eye on skater girl Ryan (Victoria Ruesga)—but deep down they are soul mates. They click, whether it is through their banter or the knowing looks they exchange, and by the time “Unchained Melody,” that ode to unconditional love, spills from the theatre’s speakers there’s no doubt that Molly and Amy are bound to be connected forever, or at least until adult life gets in the way.

Like its main characters “Booksmart” is true to its self, an overachiever that knows how to have a good time.

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